Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tony Joe White: Polk Salad Annie

Wednesday’s one-hit wonder takes us back to the 1969 hit by Tony Joe White: “Polk Salad Annie.” This song took nine months to chart within the top forty, and when it finally did, it peaked at #8 on Billboard’s Hot 100. It was his fifth single release on Monument Records and was a cut from White’s debut LP: “Black and White.”

We may have missed hearing this song ever on the radio had it not been the popularity of White’s performances in the south. Record stores clamored for copies of the single, but none were available, so White intervened and had a thousand copies sent from Monument Records in Nashville.

When the singles arrived, they were marked “promotional copy – not for sale” and White and his band marked out the prohibition so the stores could legally sell the recordings. The record finally broke in Los Angeles and the rest is history.

The cut was recorded at the famed Muscle Shoals studio and was produced by Billy Swan who later had a hit on Monument Records in 1973 with “I Can Help.”  I imagine it's the famed Muscle Shoals Horns that accompanied White on this single.  White does a great job on some simple harmonica accompaniment. Listen for the wah-wah lead towards the end of the tune.

The song referenced a plant found in Louisiana and akin to turnip greens and spinach and locally called “polk salad.” In an interview, White mentioned that his family which included seven children had to subsist on “polk salad” on occasion.

While Tony Joe White contributed another major song to the world of rock with “Rainy Night in Georgia,” it would be Brook Benton who scored the hit with that tune. "Rainy Night in Georgia" was an example of a different flavor from the swap rock sound of “Polk Salad Annie.”

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